Editor’s note: Join us on Thursday, November 2nd at our NYC office for an evening of insightful discussions on how to nurture an environment that promotes engineering excellence. For more details and to register, visit us here.
My name is Kelly and I’ve managed engineers at various companies for seven years now, each with unique challenges and opportunities. Since I joined Paxos, I’ve gradually implemented the concept of engineering excellence into our team’s mindset and I can already see the results.
Setting the bar high for engineers across the company creates healthier and more productive work environments. But how you measure and maintain this level of excellence can be challenging, so I am happy to share my top four tips to help engineers get started on their pursuit of excellence.
- Define excellence
The first step is to define what excellence means for engineers at different levels within your organization. If you haven’t yet established an engineering ladder, consider creating one. Go bold with your expectations. Evaluate junior engineers on their ability to manage small projects, and challenge senior engineers to mentor, delegate effectively and encourage positive change.
- Level employees properly
Inconsistent or premature promotions can create problems down the road. Trust me; I’ve been there. Years ago, I was the lucky recipient of a hefty raise. While it was exciting at the moment, it created unrealistic expectations of what I should expect in the future, and resulted in a tough reality check the next year. There are better strategies to promote excellence than fast-tracking promotions. If someone can become a senior engineer after just a year as a mid-level engineer, the bar probably isn’t set high enough.
- Hold the team accountable
Great engineers want to be challenged and receive critical guidance on how to improve. Be consistent in sharing the message and offering growth opportunities. At Paxos, where feedback flows freely in all directions, we’re big on real-time candor. Don’t shy away from giving constructive feedback, it’s essential for growth. For managers who are uncomfortable giving feedback, this is a great opportunity to lean into it. One suggestion is to practice your message with a trusted fellow manager when preparing to provide critical feedback. Giving voice to your words, hearing them and getting a third party’s opinion on how they land will give you more confidence in how the feedback will be received.
- Set team values
Company values play a crucial role in setting and adhering to expectations. They give teams a shared vocabulary to discuss priorities and behaviors. If your company lacks defined values, or if they need to be more specific, start the conversation within your team. If you’re an individual contributor, consider defining your values and discussing how to translate them into tangible outcomes with your manager.
At Paxos, we employ these strategies to maintain a high bar for excellence, and create a foundation for continuous improvement. But remember, engineers are individuals and one size doesn’t fit all, so we rely on personal discussions as an effective tactic to help engineers grow and level up.
Cheers to reaching new heights in engineering!